1/31/11

Fastcase Snags D.C. Bar and Its 70,000+ Attorneys

Chalk up another bar association for Fastcase… and a big one at that. Starting tomorrow, Fastcase will be a free service to all members of the Washington D.C. Bar Association. With the addition of the 70,000 D.C. bar members, that brings Fastcase's total subscriber base to more than a half-million lawyers.

Fastcase has been very busy in the past few months having secured new bar agreements like Georgia and Washington, DC. They've also enhanced the interface (which my "user experience" librarians love to talk about), and agreed to support the Law.Gov project. Of course, all this movement with gaining new bar associations means that I'm going to have to update my map of free legal research providers through state bar associations!

Congrats to Fastcase and to the members of the D.C. bar.
Here's the press release that's going out about it tomorrow:



D.C. Bar Partners With Fastcase to Provide Free Legal Research
Members Gain Free Access to Nation’s Smartest Legal Research Tools

Media Contact: Jennifer Brand
202.731.2114

Washington, DC (February 1, 2011) — Legal publisher Fastcase and the District of Columbia Bar Association today announced a partnership that will provide all active and judicial members of the D.C. Bar with free access to the Washington, D.C. libraries in Fastcase’s comprehensive online legal research system.

Beginning February 1, 2011, more than 70,000 attorneys will receive free and unlimited access to one of the nation’s largest law libraries through the D.C. Bar website, www.dcbar.org. The service is unrestricted by time or number of transactions, and unlimited printing, reference assistance, and customer service are included for free.

The D.C. Bar is one of the nation’s largest bar associations, representing almost 10 percent of all attorneys in the United States. Its partnership with Fastcase reflects the Bar’s commitment to providing its members with outstanding services that enhance their practice.

“The D.C. Bar is excited to announce this new benefit and free resource for our members,” said Katherine Mazzaferri, Chief Executive Officer of the D.C. Bar. “Our members range from local solo and small firm attorneys to global law firm leaders, so offering free access to Fastcase is a valuable benefit that our entire membership can appreciate.”

Members will get free access to Fastcase’s D.C. law libraries, as well as the ability to subscribe individually to the Fastcase nationwide Premium subscription for $195 per member per year (the service normally costs $1,140 per year). Law firms can get even larger discounts by subscribing to Fastcase’s Enterprise Edition.

“A member benefit like this is difficult to value, but comparable services cost at least $2,000 per attorney per year, making the Fastcase worth more than $140 million per year to members of the D.C. Bar,” said Ed Walters, Fastcase CEO. “Fastcase’s approach to research harnesses the power of smarter research tools. We can provide better service at high volumes, which makes partnerships like the D.C. Bar such an effective win-win proposition.”

With the addition of the D.C. Bar partnership, Fastcase now provides free premium legal research to more than 500,000 subscribers, in dozens of AmLaw 200 law firms, 20 state bar associations and dozens of voluntary bar associations and law schools.

“That makes Fastcase by far the largest legal research service outside of Westlaw and LexisNexis,” said Phil Rosenthal, Fastcase President. “Fastcase is larger than Loislaw and Bloomberg Law combined. And those numbers are paid subscribers only -- they don’t include users of Fastcase’s award-winning, free mobile apps.”

Fastcase was founded 11 years ago by two attorneys seeking to democratize the law and build smarter tools for legal research. Fastcase has gained overwhelming support from state bar associations, many of which have upgraded to Fastcase from LexisNexis, Casemaker, and Versuslaw in the last year.

“We’re excited to work with the D.C. Bar,” said Rosenthal. “We are a D.C.-based company, and have spent countless hours practicing law on the same side of the desk as many of the D.C. Bar members, so we understand the importance of saving time, keeping costs competitive, and using the right tool for the job.”

Fastcase has gained very strong momentum in the legal research market in 2010. Fastcase was voted #1 in Law Technology News’s inaugural Customer Satisfaction Survey, finishing first in 7 out of 10 categories over traditional research providers Westlaw and LexisNexis. Fastcase’s free apps for iPhone and iPad have dominated the category, winning the prestigious New Product of the Year award from the American Association of Law Libraries. And Fastcase joined Apple, Google, Twitter, and others in the prestigious EContent 100 listing of companies that matter most in the digital economy.


About Fastcase
As the smarter alternative for legal research, Fastcase democratizes the law, making it more accessible to more people. Using patented software that combines the best of legal research with the best of Web search, Fastcase helps busy users sift through the clutter, ranking the best cases first and enabling the re-sorting of results to find answers fast. Founded in 1999, Fastcase has more than 500,000 subscribers from around the world. Fastcase is an American company based in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.fastcase.com.

About The District of Columbia Bar
Created by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 1972, the District of Columbia Bar is the second largest unified bar association in the United States. The D.C. Bar’s core functions, supported by member dues, are the registration of lawyers, operation of a lawyer disciplinary system, maintenance of a Clients’ Security Fund, and certain other administrative operations. The D.C. Bar serves over 95,000 member attorneys, which represents nearly 10 percent of all attorneys in the United States. For more information, visit www.dcbar.org.


# # #


Jennifer Brand
Brand Solutions Group, LLC
(202) 621-8123 Phone
(202) 731-2114 Cell
jbrand@brandsolutionsgroup.com

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LexisNexis File & Serve Case Part II - The State Class Action Claim

Big tip-o-the-hat to Courthouse News Service for following up on the class action suit brought by Texas resident Karen McPeters against Montgomery County's (Texas) mandatory use of LexisNexis for electronic filing of court documents. We discussed the Federal class action lawsuit brought by McPeters back in April, but it appears that the Federal Judge was showing some doubt about the standing of the case in federal court on the issue of filing fees preventing due process or equal access to the law.
Cameron Langford at CNS gives a great "blow-by-blow" of the case, where McPeters equates the fee to a poll tax that is discriminatory to the public that can't afford the fee… and essentially equivalent to a literacy test for those that are not computer literate enough to understand how to file document electronically. Those are interesting arguments, however, I did find one statement in the complaint that stood out for a much more practical reason. According to the complaint, LexisNexis charges over twice as much for filing over other e-filing services that serve Texas Courts.
Very interesting…(oh, and for you non-Texans… Bexar County is pronounced similarly to "Bear"… if you say Bex-ar County, they'll know you're not from around here.)

Here's the synopsis of the complaint. It is definitely worth a read.



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Free Advertising Experiment – Month One…

At the beginning of January, we decided to run an experiment where we'd offer free advertising space on our blog. As we end the first full month of the experiment, we think we've had a pretty good start to the experiment, and would like to share some of the details on what's happened so far.

First of all, we had to actually take the idea of running free ads, and turn it into something we could manage easily. We decided that for the format of our blog, we asked that the advertisers get us a web-friendly image that was 167 pixels high by 200 pixels wide. They would also need to get us a link to the website they wanted to direct the reader to. On our side, we needed to find a way that would rotate through the ads and make it fair for all of the advertisers. After scouring the Interwebs for a few minutes, I found a couple of scripts that would work on our  Blogger site. One was a rotating script that would run the ads in order, but would change the ad every 10 seconds or so. The other script was one that would randomly pick the ad whenever a page was loaded. I decided to go with the random script over the rotating script because it seemed to be the "fairest" way to run the ads. The rotating script didn't go to waste, however, as we used it to run some of our kudos for the blog (see the rotating images on the right-hand part of the page below the "Follow Us on Twitter" links.

I would have thought that we would have about a dozen or so potential advertisers right off the bat. And, we did have bites from about that many within the first week of the experiment. What was interesting, was that we had about half of those that were really interested, not get back with us once we said get us a link and an image and we'll post it. I found that to be interesting. I also found it interesting that some of the advertisers' links were directly to a site, while a couple of them had set up the links to track the amount of traffic coming from these specific ads.

Now that we're stepping into month two of the experiment, we're looking to bring in some new advertisers. If you're interested in free ad space on 3 Geeks, then contact me about it (I'll probably just tell you to get me a 167 x 200 ad and a link.) As with January, we're looking to encourage the growth of smaller, local or regional providers… but, we're pretty open minded, so even if you're a huge corporation, but are running something unique that would be of interest to those that read this blog, we'll talk with you about that, too.

I want to really thank the five inaugural advertisers (slash guinea pigs) in this experiment. Onit, PLI, Jones McClure Publishing, Kiiac, and CALI were all brave enough to trust us with their brand, and I hope that our little experiment has sent some new folks their way. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to put them back in the rotation later in the year.

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1/28/11

Torys ‘Draws’ Attention To M&A Trends Through Animation

Canadian law firm, Torys, is no stranger to using multimedia to present its annual Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Trends. Their efforts in making a video podcast of the report even earned them the “Marketing Initiative of the Year” award at the Marketing Partner Forum in January 2007. The video podcasts have been well received by their clients, but Torys took the idea to a higher level this year by creating an animated version of their trends report using white board animation, through the talents of animator Ben Rivers, to enhance the viewer's experience. Torys animated M&A Trends for 2011 even surpasses our idea we had last year about turning those legal trends surveys into children's books.

I had a chance to correspond with the voice behind the M&A Trends video, co-leader of Torys' M&A Practice, Matthew Cockburn, to discuss the details behind the making of the video. I could tell right away from Matt's responses that he is extremely proud of the video, and loved how Ben Rivers' artwork brought the subject matter to life. The group of lawyers and marketing professionals at Torys storyboarded the topic and came up with some outlines for Rivers to use along with the recorded audio. “Ben really understood what we were looking for and did a great job," commented Cockburn.

It seems that the most difficult part of the process was the storyboarding.  Cockburn said that “it took several days to prepare the storyboard and develop the style.” However, once the group settled on the storyboard they wanted to go with, Ben Rivers came into the Toronto office of Torys to create the drawings and shoot the video. So, after days of sweating over the details of the storyboarding, the actual video shooting only took one day.

I asked Matt Cockburn why Torys decided to go with a white board story telling of the M&A trends report, and have they received any feedback from their clients yet. He told me that they had “sent the Trends publication out to our clients and contacts with a link to our M&A Top Trends microsite.” With the 2011 edition being the fifth year of the popular Torys publication, the response from the clients has been very positive. “The feedback has been great. We have had a number of comments from clients telling us how much they enjoyed it. Most of the comments suggest that people thought the video was fresh and engaging.”

The head of Torys Marketing Department, Stuart Wood, must have been thrilled to hear clients say that a law firm's trends report was “fresh and engaging.” Cockburn gave Wood the credit for coming up with the idea of using a white board animation video to enhance the trends report. It is also helps that Wood's idea can also be distributed through Torys' microsite, YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, and even through Torys' iPhone app. It seems that all Torys is missing is broadcasting this on a local public access station.

The efforts are paying off with a increase in viewers over the previous years' productions. “At the moment, the total views are over 1200,” Cockburn told me. Not too shabby for a topic like Mergers & Acquisitions trends in the Canadian marketplace. “Ultimately, we would like as many people as possible to read our Trends publication,” continued Cockburn, “we’ll review the metrics to see if the video helps increase interest in the publication and in our M&A practice overall.”

When I asked Matt Cockburn if he had any suggestions for other law firms contemplating doing something like this, he replied firms will “need the content to generate the interest in the first place. As a firm, we have had great success with the Top Trends publication and so this year we gave it a new twist. But we really focus on the content first.”

Finally, I wondered if Torys had any plans to try this again in the future. Cockburn didn't hesitate in responding with a firm “Yes” on that question. “Yes. We are always looking for new ways to engage with our clients. I think everyone worked well together on a tight timeline and we are very happy with the result. Ben and the rest of the production team were terrific and made the whole exercise a lot of fun.”

Well, enough of the discussion of the video for “M&A: Torys' Top Trends for 2011,” take a look at if for yourself and see what you think about the “twist” that Torys gave their clients this year. Congratulations to Matt Cockburn, Ben Rivers and Stuart Wood for coming up with a great way to present the M&A Trends this year. I hope we see more of this from Torys (and others) this year.


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1/27/11

What's Your Elevator Speech?

When you're at the proverbial cocktail party, and someone asks you what you do, do you have an answer? As a professional in a field known by virtually no one (knowledge management), I can tell you that one of the situations I used to fear most was getting the dreaded "what do you do?" question. It sounds so innocent, doesn't it? And yet it used to set my mental cogs into a twisting, mostly downward, spiral. I had no idea how to answer that question (a) briefly [in case the person isn't really that interested], (b) coherently [so that I don't sound like I'm making it up], and (c) substantively [so that I actually answer the person's question and explain what I do]. But about a year ago, I finally came up with my elevator speech -- a way of describing what I do briefly, coherently, and substantively. This is quite a point of pride for me not only because it took me so long to figure out, but also because I've found that my speech actually works! Each time I share it to respond to the "what do you do?" question, I've been greeted in return with genuine understanding, and even an interest in hearing more. So, what is this 30-second pitch I've developed? Well, here you go -- I explain that: "What I do is parallel to what Google did for the web. All the websites it searches already existed and were already out there available to be viewed, but suddenly with Google people were able to find those websites much more easily." One of the reasons I like the comparison for the layperson of knowledge management to Google is that it leverages the distinction between access to content and the content itself that, prior to Google, most people simply did not get, but which Google has since made infamous. Certainly one part of knowledge management is content development and aggregation, but that part is typically easier to explain. The aspect that always tripped me up in the past was how to express the access part of knowledge management. I could say I design, build, and launch a tool that searches; a tool that files email; a new portal; a practice toolkit; a tool that tags documents; a more streamlined process to create documents; etc etc... but listing out projects is hardly the right response at that party to the person asking what you do. So I'm pleased to say that I now have an elevator speech. But I'm always interested in hearing how others describe what they do to those completely outside the legal industry. So if you have an elevator speech too, please comment here and share it with me.

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Elephant Post: What Do You Absolutely Love About Your Profession?

Every once in a while, we like to lob a softball out for everyone to answer. Of course, if you hate what you do, then I guess this wouldn't really be a softball question for you (good luck on the job search when the economy rebounds, though!) For the rest of us, there are just certain things we do that make us feel good about choosing our profession. I love using the analogy of the game of Careers where different professions bring in different categories of success. Few of us get a good balance between fame (), happiness (), and salary($), but sometimes we get close. [FYI – I'm still trying to think of a good Elephant Post Question that brings in the rules of Careers… let me know if you have a good one!)] We have a number of perspectives this week where people have found a good balance, and enjoy what they do. Whether it is Marketing, KM, Libraries, or CI, it seems that the common theme is that they like what they do, and they feel like they are accomplishing something everyday. Don't worry if you didn't get a chance to contribute to this week's post. After you read the perspectives on this week's question, we give everyone a chance to answer next week's question… all without even having to leave this page!!


Marketing Perspective Socialicious Danny Johnson I work in Marketing at NetDocuments and manage the social media strategy. Taking what I like to do, interact with people, to work, makes it amazing. Also, cloud computing is the emerging tech of the decade and being a part of it is fascinating. Its a fast paced market so it forces me to stay current or else get left behind.


Knowledge Management Perspective You mean there's something NOT to like? Ayelette Robinson Other than not being able to spend more time out in the sun and fresh air (though my pale skin probably wouldn't handle that very well in any case), everything about my profession is right up my alley. In no particular order, here's what I love about my profession: I get to leverage all my prior professional knowledge as though all my prior positions led me in a straight line to where I am today (though they didn't, at least not intentionally), I get to think of creative conceptual and visual solutions to problems which exercises the artistic side of my brain, I get to have fun picking technology apart and putting it back together again, I get to hang out with both lawyers (business problem solvers) and geeks (techies), I get to work on collaborative teams, I get to make others' lives easier, I get to bask in the knowledge that there will always be new and increasingly interesting problems to solve, and last but certainly not least, I get to cross paths with the smartest, most interesting, and most fun professionals I know, which inspires me and humbles me every single day.


Law Librarian Perspective Magical Research Moments Ellen Quinn Research and problem solving. I love deconstructing a question, considering or discovering resources and then applying them to solve the problem before me. That time of intense concentration and problem-solving zen is what got me into the profession of law librarianship and what keeps it new and interesting. I enjoy the social aspects of research –collaboration with attorneys, staff, courts, government agencies, help desk staff, and other librarians – to provide solutions for our clients. I also love the little things, those “pulling a rabbit out of a hat” moments. These usually involve a request for a specific item - the requester doesn’t know where to find it so they come to you. And because you have many years of experience, you have a thorough working knowledge of legal and non-legal resources, and because you regularly get that same sort of question in various guises – you email the item to them before they (a) get back to their office, or (b) within a five minutes after you get the email request, or (c) you pull an actual book off the shelf right before their eyes, - or (d) because you know that other librarians want to help, you take advantage of interlibrary loan networks and that world-class research library down the street.


Competitive Intelligence Manager Perspective "It's not a job, it's a profession" Emily C. Rushing Some folks have "jobs" and that's fine. I've had many jobs, jobs are good things. But to have a profession is so much more rewarding. Definitions of "profession" cite to a "calling" and require "specialized knowledge" and "long and intensive academic preparation". They also reference the "whole body of people engaged in a profession". This calling and the community is one of the things I most love about my profession. We debate and disagree (hopefully respectfully), but library/research/knowledge/intelligence professionals can and do collaborate, share ideas and work together to improve ourselves and the practices of our institutions. The folks in my profession are some of the smartest, most interesting and dedicated people I've ever known. So, belonging to library and intelligence communities as a fellow professional, to me, is better than any ole' job. Like my colleagues, it's my profession and my calling.


Lawyer Perspective Chief Builder Donna Chmura I am a business lawyer. What I like most about it is that I am helping to build something for my clients, rather than tear something down or pick up the pieces in litigation. The second-best thing is being able to learn about so many businesses and industries, and what makes them tick.


Information Technology Perspective Solidarity Scott Preston There are several aspects of my profession that I love. As a technologist, I love the fact that the profession is in a constant state of change. Perhaps the approach toward finding and implementing technology does not change as frequently as it should, but certainly technology is constantly changing and that keeps things interesting. Another aspect of my profession that I love is the legal environment. I work with some of the best and brightest legal minds in the industry and these people expect the best in everyone around them. As I like to say, you better be willing and able to bring your “A” game or you will not last long in the legal environment. You must have a good understanding of how you will approach challenges and be comfortable having your ideas challenged. Finally, I love the camaraderie I have with my many peers at other law firms. I have always been amazed by the amount of information and idea sharing that goes on between law firm technologists, as well as other administrative areas.


Law Librarian Perspective Sherlock Holmes...Eat your heart out! Mark Gediman I love searching for the needle in a haystack, following the breadcrumb trail and generally pulling a research rabbit out of my hat. Tracking down the obscure is fun and challenging, the more painstaking the better. That's what makes me look forward to work in the morning. At least, I think that's why.


Marketing Perspective Voila! Lisa Salazar

Creativity.

I love taking literally "nothing"--air, web space, another dimension--and creating a new thing. It is a complete a total rush.

And it gets really fun when you do it with other people. Some of the best days at work are days when me, the IT guys and the graphics guys sit around a table and come up with a new way to do things.

Now that's a rush!


Next Week's Elephant Post Question:

What Blog Do You Read That You Suggest Others Should Also Read?
Hey! The form's embedded, so you have no excuse not to contribute. However, if you cannot see the form because you're using IE 6.0, you can still:

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1/25/11

Testing Your Law Library Strategy

The McKinsey Quarterly put out an interesting article about business strategy, and outlined “ten timeless tests” that you should think about when evaluating your company’s strategic direction. (note: free registration required to read the entire article)
Bruce MacEwan at Adam Smith, Esq. blog took the tests and applied them to how a law firm looks at its strategic direction. Both of these posts provide a nice insight into business strategies and law firm strategies, but I’d like to look at it from an even narrower prospective of law library strategies and see how asking these ten questions can help structure successful implementation of strategic plans.
Here are the ten questions (Note: McKinsey chart shows that most companies’ strategies (65%) pass 3 or fewer of these test.)

Test 1: Will your strategy beat the market?
Test 2: Does your strategy tap a true source of advantage?
Test 3: Is your strategy granular about where to compete?
Test 4: Does your strategy put you ahead of trends?
Test 5: Does your strategy rest on privileged insights?
Test 6: Does your strategy embrace uncertainty?
Test 7: Does your strategy balance commitment and flexibility?
Test 8: Is your strategy contaminated by bias?
Test 9: Is there conviction to act on your strategy?
Test 10: Have you translated your strategy into an action plan?

I think it would be interesting to take a generic library strategic plan – such as this one from Duke University – adapt if for a law library, and run it through the series of tests to see how the strategy holds up to the questions.
Here’s the Duke Library strategies, changed to be more generic:
  1. Improve the User Experience
  2. Provide Digital Content, Tools & Services
  3. Develop New Research & Training Partnerships
  4. Support the Organization’s Priorities
  5. Enhance Library Spaces
Maybe an even better approach is to take the basic strategy (like Duke’s “Improve the User Experience”) and drive it through these questions in order to come up with a better overall strategy. It may even turn out that the original strategy isn’t a good idea at all and the library shouldn’t waste time on it. As the quote goes from Phil Rosenzweig in the McKinsey article, “There’s always new stuff out there, and most of it’s not very good.” Perhaps running the concept of your new strategy through the test can help weed out those “not very good” strategies.
So, if we took the “Improve the User Experience” and applied Test 1 to see if it would beat the market, how would it hold up?? First of all, I think we’d need to identify two things before we go any further. Who is the User? What is our defined Market?

Who is the User?
If we’re talking about a law firm library, then the user would be defined as the attorneys and staff of the firm that benefit from the services the law library provides. Notice that I didn’t use the phrase “attorneys and staff that use the library.” My thoughts on that were that would be too narrow a definition (as probably there are a huge chunk of lawyers and staff that don’t directly use the library, but still indirectly receive benefit from the services provided by the library… such as the library’s maintenance of the online subscription databases, or Intranet links.)

What is our defined Market?
This one is an interesting question and perhaps some law firm librarians do not think there is a defined market in which they are competing. But, let’s step back a minute and think about a broad market definition of who we compete against on a day-to-day basis.
  • Online databases - whether it is Google, Westlaw, Lexis, or any of the other countless sources of information available to your defined Users, they are all competing to get your users to use their services over yours.
  • Internal market - Are there others within your firm that are providing duplicate services? Paralegals, Associates, clerks and secretaries may be positioned to provide some of the same services that your library provides, and may have a competitive advantage because of their proximity to decision makers within the firm. I’m not saying that it is right or wrong… it’s just that they have to be recognized as part of the market.
  • External market - Are there others outside your firm that are providing duplicate services? This type of external market could range from consultants that come in to assist in the training of library users, to Westlaw/Lexis attorneys, to the Barnes & Noble down the street, to outsourced resources. Again, this isn’t designed to make you take a defensive stance against others in the market… you just need to understand who those players are in order to answer Test 1 honestly.
What does “Beat the Market” Mean?
I got in a bit of trouble with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago when I mentioned that a law library shouldn’t run itself like a business and turn itself into a Barnes & Noble. Your library is a business, but it is one with a peculiar type of profit model. So, when we look at the first test and we define what it means to “Beat the Market,” you’ll need to really think about what that means for your individual law library. I’d say it would be safe to say that a generic answer like this would get you started:
“Beating the Market means that the strategy will better position the law library to compete in the market place against internal and external competitors, and will improve the way the library leverages the use of internal and external competitors.”
In other words, even if internal and external competitors end up being the best way to accomplish our objectives, it is accomplished in a way that makes sure the law library is still an important player in that market. If implementing this specific strategy places your law library in a stronger position within your defined market, then I’d say that you’ve passed Test 1.
The McKinsey article says that Test 1 is comprehensive and the remaining nine “disaggregate the picture of a market-beating strategy.” However, stopping at Test 1 may not uncover some of the other weaknesses (or strengths) of your strategy. Therefore, having a conversation about the remaining nine strategies is important in order to have a dialog with others to determine how strong the strategy is, and the best method of applying the strategy successfully.
I’d actually love it if we could recruit some guests to come on and try their hand at answer Tests 2 - 9 on this generic strategy of “Improve the User Experience.” Let me know if you want to tackle Test 2 and explain if this strategy taps a true source of advantage for a law library.


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Two Geeks and a KM/Library Webinar - What's Not To Love?? (2/17)

In February, Toby and I are going to participate in a Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of AALL discussing how law librarians' skill sets can be used to support strategic Knowledge Management. Of course, Toby will be doing all the heavy lifting, and I'll be sitting back asking him some off-the-wall questions.

The series of webinars that PLL-SIS has set up, will lead to PLL Change as Action Summit at the AALL Annual Conference on July 23, 2011 (in Philadelphia). If you're a private law librarian, it will be worthwhile to attend the PLL Summit (and bring along your boss, Library Partner or Administrative Leader.) You'll enjoy it, and they'll thank you for enlightening them on the topic of how the private law librarians are adapting to the infamous "new normal" we're all dealing with.

Here's the press release on the February 17th Webinar:


"Moving Beyond Library Walls to Support Strategic Knowledge Management"

Join us on February 17 for a webinar that will examine ideas to support strategic knowledge management in your library and law firm.
The current economic downturn is challenging law firms in unprecedented ways.  Knowledge management is being implemented at firms to provide a competitive advantage.  Join knowledge management experts Julie Bozzell and Toby Brown to learn --

  • how knowledge management is being applied to support the practice and business of law, and 
  • the role law librarians can play to move beyond the reference desk to support strategic knowledge management by applying their expertise to support a new, leaner and more strategic model of law firm practice. 

This webinar is the second in a series of five programs moderated by PLL members to provide a primer in law firm management from the viewpoint of firm managers and administrators.  It is part of a two-year program undertaken by the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of AALL to identify significant changes taking place in the legal world, to understand how these changes provide opportunities for assuming leadership roles, and to develop concrete plans for librarians to become leaders within their organizations.  The culmination of these efforts, the PLL Change as Action Summit, will take place in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 23, 2011.
To register, please visit this link:  http://www.regonline.com/moving_beyond

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1/24/11

Is it Time for Law Firms to Get Their Groupon?

I was thinking about this very question today.

Why couldn't a law firm offer a Groupon for their services? Why not indeed?

It is not so disimilar from offering alternative fees.

I had recently read about a women-owned firm who were offering flat-fee services for divorces, custody battles and the like.

Why not a Groupon?

I can see it now: 50% off Legal Services: $100 for $200 worth of Family Law Services.

I challenge someone to do this and report on the results.

What's the worst thing that could happen?

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1/21/11

On Second Thought… Those 3D Glasses Don't Look As Dorky As I Thought…

I've been holding out on the 3D televisions and movies craze for the simple reason that I thought it just looks dorky putting on those bulky glasses. That is, until I saw what one visual artist did to see 3D without the glasses. Take a look at this "eye-blinking" video of François Vogel and his 120 hertz refreshing eyelids. As Toby told me after watching this "eye can see the lawsuits that will follow."



I guess those glasses aren't the dorkiest thing you can do to watch 3D movies…

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Law Firm Management: Is Lamb on the Lamb from Law Librarians?

The Lamb has been skewered by law librarians in the legal webosphere. When reading the posts and comments of Patrick Lamb's recent blog, I couldn't help but be reminded of the hierarchical structure of law firms--or of any professional services environment. Lawyers (and partners at other professional services industries) fail to appreciate or understand the measures, lengths and methods that their legal professionals employ to execute the business of a law firm. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but they are not the norm. Because of this, it results in, dare I say, a discriminatory attitude towards legal professionals. And these lawyers' prejudice manifests itself in a number of ways:
  1. failing to seek staff input on best business management practices,
  2. failing to acknowledge staff's expertise in areas of legal research, knowledge management, IT and marketing,
  3. failing to recognize the influence staff have inside and outside of the firm,
  4. not leveraging staff relationships, expertise and methodology to secure new business,
  5. not rewarding staff for securing business, and
  6. not empowering staff to challenge the status quo to help the law firm grow.

I've worked at a number of large law firms but always as a support person. And this occurred after I got my law degree.

Why? Because I like the business of law firm management. I recognized that there was a huge opportunity for someone who has a law degree and strong business administrative skills.

But what I have witnessed time and time again at my previous firms was how rarely lawyers included legal professionals in their business decisions. Many lawyers failed to recognize that their staff are, at times, far more educated than they--heck, law librarians not only have to have JDs but also Master Degrees in Library Science.

Some of my best colleagues have MBAs, leadership training and PhDs.

So in this week of celebrating Martin Luther King and his call for equality, I ask lawyers everywhere to take off their blinders and take a look at the people working with you every day.

Who knows--that helpdesk guy who just fixed your computer may very well have a daughter who is a GC at a Fortun 500 company.

It's happened to me before. Really.

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1/20/11

People! It is 2011. The Fax Machine is DEAD.

Ok. The last time the Legal Directories Publishing Co. sent me a fax just a few months ago, I threatened to blog about it but didn't do it.
Unbelievably, they did it again.
Hello! It is 2011, people.
Let's see a show of hands--how many of you have a fax machine?
Exactly.
The only thing I can think is that their target audience is over the age of 60.

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Elephant Post: What Are Your “Other” Predictions for 2011?

Many of us have already seen a few projections of what will happen in the legal industry this year. Most of those predictions are “yawners” (such as Richard Susskind's prediction of firms adopting more social media, adopting cloud-based apps, and using tablets… which Toby labeled as Susskind "jumping the shark" on his predictions.) So, we thought we'd twist this annual tradition and seek out predictions for 2011 that you may not have thought about. Here are a few "under the radar" predictions for 2011 from a number of different perspectives.

As is another tradition… scroll down to the end of this post to see how you can contribute to next week's Elephant Post question. It's super easy to do, and we love having participants sharing their perspective on a question and seeing how it blends in with other perspectives.


Records Management Perspective
Someone's gonna get busted…
Greg Lambert

There's a perfect storm brewing in the area of Records Management (RM) within the legal industry. Although the Enron debacle raised the profile of RM in the first decade of the century, it seems that old habits of law firm management are creeping back into the fray, and are going to end up biting someone in the rear this year. Here are the factors that many firms face:
  1. No one really wants to implement a true RM policy.
  2. Even if a RM policy exists, there is little incentive for anyone to follow it.
  3. Law firms are reluctant to invest in supporting RM policies.
  4. RM outsourcing companies arrange contracts where it is cheaper to keep something for 20+ years in storage than it is to destroy or bring back those materials.
  5. IT infrastructure (storage) is so cheap that not following a RM policy has minimal effect on the overall performance of the infrastructure.
  6. There is no desire on the part of the attorneys to follow up on RM policies because it is a non-billable process.
  7. For an industry that is built upon the principles of being "risk adverse," when it comes to RM policies, it seems that no one is willing to really move upon them until someone else gets sanctioned.
So my "other" prediction for 2011 is that someone at a major law firm gets sanctioned this year for maintaining client records beyond the recognized legal time period, and those documents end up costing a client a major court case. Everyone knows it is going to happen eventually… I'm just projecting that it will happen this year.

AFA Perspective
TR Opens the LPO Barn Door ... Wide
Toby Brown

The Thomson Reuters' (TR) purchase of Pangea3 has kicked the LPO barn door wide-open.  This is much more than a prediction of more out-sourcing of legal services.  Instead, I am predicting clients start diverting their relationships away from law firms to LPO providers.  There has been this stand-off on whether it would be clients or law firms that embrace LPOs first, each one waiting to see who would trust the model first.  With TR's purchase, the wait is over. A recent conversation with an industry consultant confirmed that client inquiries about Pangea3 and LPOS has jumped considerably since the acquisition.

This "other" prediction means that law firm relationships with clients will continue to weaken as "New Normal" providers move in and displace them.

Knowledge Management Perspective
It's Not Just for Recreational Use Anymore: Legalizing Project Management
Ayelette Robinson

The concept of LPM (Legal Project Management) is hardly a new one, and the prediction that more firms will pay attention to it in 2011 is hardly a bold one. My prediction, however, is slightly different: I predict that those trying to sell project management to law firms and law firm management will finally legalize it -- that is, they will find a way to weave it into how attorneys practice, rather than focusing on the new and different processes that attorneys need to go through in order to reap its benefits.

For those attorneys who understand what project management is (which in itself is a minority of attorneys overall), project management is seen as recreational, something that might be nice to do and might add value in theory, but whose burden of time and effort to implement far outweighs any potential benefit or WIIFM (what's in it for me) factor. So I predict that this year, LPM will be legalized. Someone or something will turn the tide across the legal industry so that more firms than not, and more attorneys than not, will not just appreciate the value in theory, but will get that there is a way to incorporate it into the business without undercutting everything they've ever learned and practiced. Actual implementation across the industry may take another year (or two, or five...), but I predict that this year perceptions will change. And PM will be legalized.

Legal Technology (Reality TV) Perspective
The Kardashians
Danny Johnson

The three geeks are kind of like the Kardashians, you know? Flawed, no doubt, but, late at night (or in the office), they can be useful. I'm speaking about late-night learning, of course. And about looking past your biases. Like Kim, Toby's the big name, but you have to forget that he's "Toby Brown." He's no longer working at the Utah bar.

As his bio states, Greg is all over Twitter and wins awards, even if they're geeky ones at that. Kind of like how Kourtney has come back even more of a star after her pregnancy.

And Lisa is Khloe, the least-known, but after appearances on "Celebrity Apprentice," a marriage to a Laker and a natural affinity of design, they have the most upside.

Trust me, I know potential when I see it. I just spent almost 200 words comparing three geeks to reality TV/sex tape stars. It didn't totally work, but it was enough to get us to my prediction.

The global hegemony of legal server document management will come to end as cloud takes over.


"Ummh, what was the question?"
Internet Marketing Perspective
Lisa Salazar

Lawyers will be stumped, stymied and flummoxed by Quora.

The rest of the world will ramp up and get on board to the latest social media craze while lawyers are looking for the dark cloud (rather than the silver lining).

While new start-ups begin to burgeon around Quora and Fortune 500 companies figure out how to leverage it, law firms will take one look and turn their back.

What can  I say?

Can I call 'em, or what?



Next Week's Elephant Post Question:
What Do You Absolutely Love About Your Profession?
I know as a librarian, I hate it when someone thinks that I went into this profession because I love books. That's the equivalent to saying that you became an IT professional because you like playing Tetris. There is just so much more going on that is interesting, enjoyable and fulfilling (although, I still like to read books and play Tetris as well.)

This is a super-slow softball of a question. If you can't think of an answer for this one, then perhaps you should ponder changing career paths. Between such an easy question, and such an easy process to add your perspective, you have no excuses on why you can't contribute to the next Elephant Post.

Instructions:


See you next week!!

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1/19/11

Google Maps and a “Legal History Pin” Mashup

I was flipping through my RSS feeds earlier this week when I came across an article that discussed some of the Historical Google Maps Mashups. It was intriguing to see how something as modern as Google Maps could benefit from images of the past by using historical mashups like HistoryPin. It created a new layer of importance not only for Google Maps, but also brought relevance of an artifact to light in a way that compares the past to the present. As I sat there reading the review, and scanning through some of the images, I got to thinking about another way that mashing up two loosely related pieces of data could make for a new way of looking at each piece. Of course, being a legal researcher, I immediate started wondering if it would be possible to combine case law references to specific locations and Google Maps. Could we create a ‘legal history pin’?

As with the historical pictures, imagine being able to link out from a case you are researching directly to a map showing that location, and the surrounding area. Or, imagine doing this in reverse… looking at a map and seeing links to cases that discuss the location. I’m not sure if there is a significant legal usage for such a linking of two pieces of distinct information, but it sure sounds like it would be fun trying.

I brought this idea up with Ed Walters of Fastcase and we had an interesting discussion (or as Ed called it, “a geeky discussion”) of this type of Legal “Goggles” version of location, cases and history. How cool would it be to see references to case law as you are walking along the avenue? Ed specifically mentioned a Washington DC building with a significant legal history, so I thought I'd just randomly pick a location and see how a mashup might work.

Let’s say you’re looking at a map of N. Western Ave. in Chicago, or even better, let’s say you’ve pulled up your Google Maps app on your mobile device while walking along the 300 block of N. Western Ave. You see a building that's boarded up, but when you mash it up with legal history, you can see some of the history that lives in that building. A pin would show up on the map and you now see that it was the old Jewel Paint and Varnish Company, and you get a link to read about the case involving this building.

It’s probably a stretch to show how this would have any significant legal usage, but who says that cases should be limited to the courthouse? Just as the pictures of a bygone era help bring old data and new data together, so could the ability to link physical locations to the legal information available about that location. As an architect, historian or genealogist, it would seem that adding legal details to a location might connect them with pieces of information they may not have otherwise uncovered. Such as the obituary of the owner of Jewel Paint and Varnish Company in 1997.

At a minimum, it would be cool to be able to stand in a location and pull up legal references related to that spot. Who knows… perhaps viewing this type of information in a whole new way might bring out new legal arguments on present legal matters.

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1/18/11

Curator HD for iPad - Google Feed Reader and Much More…

I've been playing with the free iPad App called Curator HD over the past couple of weeks, and have really enjoyed using it as my Google Reader interface for the iPad. I've used the generic Google Reader iPad web page in the past, or even used apps like Flipboard to look at my feeds (via some fancy Twitter forwarding), but the Curator HD app is so much better for viewing the feeds, and sharing items with others. The sharing covers the usual suspects (Twitter, Facebook, email, etc), but the sharing via a Newsletter option is something that I think is a great feature of this app.

The Newsletter option allows you to build newsletters, on the fly, and distribute that newsletter to others via email. In addition to forwarding the newsletter, Curator HD allows you to add comments, add your personal branding image to the header logo of the newsletter, plus add images to the individual stories within the newsletter. Here's a video that covers many of the features that are available simply through the free app and your Google Reader feed.



The company behind Curator HD is Infongen. Infongen produces a high-end news feed and search service that is marketed to businesses, and more recently they have entered the law firm market as a competitive intelligence / business development resource. If your company or firm subscribes to Infongen, then you can also add in all those wonderful searches or feeds set up in Infongen. However, even without the professional Infongen tool, the Curator HD app is definitely worth a look if you want an easy way to view your Google Reader feeds on the iPad, and like to share what you read with others.

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Lawyers: Has Your Web Site Lost its Curb Appeal?

I just read a nifty little post by Amanda Neville, founder of Thinkso Marketing Agency, called "Quiz: Is It Time to Update Your Website?". I don't know about you, but I love online quizzes. Maybe because they are a) short, or b) they make me feel smart, or c) I'm just a geek. (I think that the right answer is "c", but I'm not sure. Maybe I should add "d) all of the above"?). Anyways, I digress. So here is my Law Firm version:
  • Is posting an item to your web site call for an act from Congress?: Do you have a web content management system or are you relying on your web developer to hand-code your news for you? If you don't understand a word I just wrote in that last sentence, the answer is probably Yes.
  • Can people register online for your events and/or downloads? Or are your web site visitors having to hand copy an e-mail address and open a new window to send, then you have a problem and the answer is Yes.
  • Once people are registered for your events, does your secretary have then generate a word document of the attendees? Shame on you. At the least, she should be putting them in an Excel spreadsheet. You are Signori Negatori.
  • Is the first piece of navigation on your web site point to the Law Firm's About Us page? Add five points to your total score. The site visitor does not want to read your 100-year history; he probably just wants your tax attorney's phone number--after all, it is tax season. You are going down, buster.
  • Does your site have a flash introduction page? You need to pull it down now. It bugs everyone and no one is watching it anymore. Besides that, iPads can't read it. Add another tic mark next to Yes.
  • Is your web site home page made up of one big fat image? This is the reason that your site isn't making it on any search results. For the sake of search engine optimization, get rid of the bulky images. Another big, fat Yes.

If you answer Yes to more than 2 questions, you really do need to update your law firm web site.

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Profitability and the New KM

As a corollary to the profitability series, this post tackles the need for KM to be tied to profitability in a law firm. Otherwise it becomes KM for the sake of KM. Ron Friedmann’s recent post on KM Reincarnated combined with some recent evaluations of Legal Project Management (LPM) software got me thinking about this idea. It took me back to the introduction of CRM software to law firms. As firms embraced marketing, CRM software was pitched as an answer to the challenge of growing the business. Demos showed how lawyers could easily see “who knows whom” when pitching new work and making new relationships. This would tell them all of the connections they already have with a new contact, including schools attended and common acquaintances. The expected result would be more business in the door. Thus a supposed connection to profitability. The problem CRM systems faced in practice was the dependence on three critical things: 1) The right data was capture, 2) The data was of sufficient quality, and most importantly, 3) That lawyers would change their behavior to suit the system, both in sharing this data and then utilizing it for business development. CRM has generally failed in this promise. The data for most firms’ CRM systems is very incomplete and typically not current. As well, lawyers don’t look to the CRM system for business development opportunities. Instead, these systems are used as marketing databases. They have value, but not the value initially assumed by firms. I think LPM and related KM systems are in danger of falling into the same trap. Legal KM appears to be desperate to find meaning in a fast changing environment and as a consequence may be hooking its wagon up to LPM (and AFAs). So when LPM software is pitched as a way for firms to differentiate, get and retain clients and be more profitable, it’s time to put on your reality glasses and ask if the same or similar three CRM questions apply. To illustrate this point, many LPM systems are seen as a way to improve profit margins via efficiencies gained. In prior posts I have discussed how LPM will only be as successful as the plans it uses. But where will these plans come from? Past billings do not have the type and quality of data necessary to generate reasonable plans (i.e. good L codes), which fails CRM questions #1 and #2. So instead, LPM will be dependent on lawyers taking the time to develop detailed plans for each of their matters. These plans will take significant non-billable time to develop and will require partner level experience to build (CRM #3). And what is the reward for the partners that do this? The presumption is it will bring more business in the door by differentiating your firm. But I would suggest software doesn’t get business – partners do. Just as our expectations that an actual business development system would bring in business were misguided, so are expectations that project management software will somehow do the same. LPM systems may well have value, but it’s not getting more business and they won't impact profitability unless they solve the same three challenges CRM faced. So when you look at these and other next generation KM systems, make sure you are using them to solve the right problems. Otherwise you will be back to buying a marketing database, expecting it to be a CRM system.

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1/17/11

Online Marketing Trends and the Legal Industry

Hat tip to Scott Cone for pointing out this article on Top 10 Online Advertising Trends Of The Decade. It caught my eye since it was taking a longer term look at trends (versus just one year), revealing the more powerful shifts in the market. The trends are generally what you might expect, however the author gives great insights to the impact of each trend. For instance, the emergence of vertical ad networks is creating more powerful branding and audience targeting opportunities. What really struck me about these trends is the legal profession’s almost complete lack of use and/or understanding of them. We’re still arguing about the ethics of social media marketing. By the time we figure the ethics angle out, this boat will have long ago sailed. Admittedly, some of these trends have far greater relevance for consumer marketing (B to C). But still, law firms should at least be getting one or two of them. I suppose there’s an argument that lawyers are embracing the Video component (#8). But even then, only in a limited fashion and not in the viral way that brings the most ROI (see this great example). This is yet one more significant challenge for law firms looking to succeed in a competitive marketplace. My optimism continues to fade.

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1/14/11

The Plateau


There are moments in the life of every Information Technologist when you wonder, maybe only to yourself, silently, why do I care so much? And yet you do. And the next question is, am I doing the right thing? In the right way? Is there a better way? It's a slippery slope and it's hard to stop the questions. I recently found myself in such a question-mire, so I did what I do when I need to make sense of something that has confounded me. I wrote about it. This time it took the form of a story or fable, a metaphor in search of context. I don't know what it means, but I felt better having written it down. I hope you'll permit me a fictional diversion at the end of the week.

The Plateau
I am a lifeguard on the Plateau of Relevance. Every day I sit perched on a chair at the edge, my back to the abyss, scanning the herd of suits that grazes silently before me. In the distance, the Foothills of Progress give way to the snow capped Peaks of Success, and I often daydream about standing in that snow, and looking back at my little wooden chair. But still I sit, for I have a job to do.
Once in a while something spooks the herd and one or more of the suits takes off at a gallop. If they head toward the edge, it's my job to stop them before they plunge into the abyss. I'm not alone in my endeavor. To my right, about a half mile away, my colleague Henry sits reading a magazine. I pull out my little mirror and flash Henry a couple of times. He looks up and flashes back. He's ok. Nothing to report. He goes back to reading. I look to my left where James, a half mile in the other direction, lies sleeping beside his chair. I flash the mirror, but no response, so I pick up my bag and begin to dig through it. My lunch, half eaten. A novel I just can't get into. Last week's paperwork that I really should finish, but... Flashing. I look up. Henry is waving his mirror wildly and pointing to the herd.
I see her immediately and she's already at full speed, swinging her briefcase as she runs straight for the edge. I drop my bag and I'm off, gauging my vector and adjusting as I go. I'm always amazed that a suit in heels, a skirt, and pearls can possibly run so fast. I'm in shorts and sneakers and I can barely catch up. Henry waves as if to say, "You got this one? OK.", then he goes back to reading his magazine. Lazy punk. That's all right. I'll get to her. I've got just enough time. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I notice ten more heading my way....maybe twenty. This could be a stampede, but I can't worry about that now. I've committed to saving this one suit and that's all I'm focused on. I reach her just as she steps off the edge. I grab her arm and we crash to the ground. She dangles over the side as her briefcase falls into the clouds below and disappears. "Hold on!", I yell. I can hear the footfalls of the herd getting closer and soon, shoes on my back, and head, and they just keep coming. 20, 30, 50, it seems there's no end. They're piling over each other and tumbling off the side. I watch as they spin and flip through the air and eventually disappear beneath the clouds. I may lose the whole herd this time, but I refuse to lose the one I've got in my hand. I squeeze harder and I can feel her hand slipping. I yell again, "Hold on!", but it's no use. She doesn't want to be saved. She looks up at me and says softly, "Let me go." And it doesn't matter, because I can't hold her anyway. She slips from my hand and I watch in horror as she plummets through the clouds and out of sight.
I lie there for a moment, staring into the chasm, allowing myself to feel the loss. Why am I here? What good am I doing? What is the point of all this? I can feel rocks digging into my chest, there is dirt in my teeth, and at this moment, more than ever before, I long to lie in the snow and look to the sky. I stand up and brush myself off. I'm bruised and battered, but most of the herd is still behind me, grazing the plateau, and I'm relieved. I could not have lost more than a dozen. Not good, but not the total loss I feared. Hundreds of thousands of suits remain, grazing, oblivious to the carnage that just occurred. I limp over to the nearest suit. He's reading his Blackberry.
"Why are you so close?", I ask.
"Huh?", he says looking up.
"Why are you all so close to the edge?", I reiterate.
"Edge?", he says obliviously.
I give up and walk back to my chair. The suit goes back to his Blackberry and dissolves into the herd.
The snow is foremost in my thoughts now. I look to the peaks. I've never been there. I've never even seriously considered the trip. After all, who will do my job? But now, I can think of nothing else. I look to Henry and give a flash. He flashes back and waves. I flash James, but he's still asleep. I grab my bag and start walking through the herd. Surely the agency will replace me, right? But what difference does it make? If I can't save them, who can? I pass a young suit, a 9 or 10 year old boy, in a blue blazer and khakis. He's sitting on a large rock, playing a game on his phone and as I pass, he looks up and says, "Hey mister! Where ya going?"
"The mountains", I say, slightly startled by the words, having never heard myself speak them aloud before. "You wanna go?"
He shrugs, then stands and walks beside me. We walk together toward the setting sun. I look back over my shoulder and see that a large portion of the herd is following us at a safe distance. I smile. I didn't expect that, and it makes me happy. My companion reaches up and takes my hand. I am filled with wonder and possibility as we start our journey. I look down at the boy, prepared to tell him about the snow on the peaks, about the pass we're going to take through the foothills, about the obstacles we will have to overcome. I hope that he will share my excitement in anticipation of the journey ahead, but he is occupied. The glow of his phone screen lights his face and he's absorbed in his task.
"Gng 2 mnts", he types and hits send.
Yes we are, and that is good enough for now.

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Law Firm Profitability and its Impact on the Client


In the series on law firm profitability, the clients weren't directly addressed. As law firms struggle to adapt to a profit margin business model, what will the impact be on how much clients pay and on the quality of services they receive?
We explored two basic methods for lowering the cost of delivery of legal services, which can obviously impact the fees clients pay and the quality of their service. We’ll tackle these methods much like we did from the law firm perspective.
Fewer Hours
First up is finding ways to use fewer hours to provide the same service. This included the use of LPM and process improvement and innovation. The value of LPM to clients, in my opinion, is more about consistency than savings. Having well-defined plans up-front, means more consistent execution and quality of service. Or in other words - standardization equals quality. Fewer things fall through the cracks, when you have a plan to avoid them. An added benefit of LPM is the potential for savings. Just having a thought-out plan can eliminate some unnecessary tasks that would have been done otherwise.
Process improvement has significant potential for benefiting clients – just like it does for law firms. By attacking the plans and processes generated by LPM with an eye towards reducing hours and costs, firms will be indirectly attacking the cost to clients. Every hour reduced is an opening to reduce the costs to clients. And just as importantly, process improvement can maintain and improve quality of service (provided it is done well).
Cheaper Hours
Lowering the cost of service per hour can benefit clients as well. We have 3 options under this heading. First off - new staffing models mean lower cost per hour on comp. Essentially this means giving work to staff attorneys instead of more expensive associates. Staff attorneys will have lower costs and may have lower rates. So the savings to clients in an hourly arrangement will depend on the staff lawyer rates relative to associates’. Typically these rates are lower since most firms base rates loosely on comp. So the savings to firms would be passed on in part along to the client.
Next up is leverage. From our last post, we saw the benchmark of 1% of leverage improvement resulting in about a 1% improvement of law firm profit. Using those same metrics, 1% improvement of leverage results in .6% to .7% savings to a client. Caveats:
  1. This is just a benchmark and will differ based on different firms and practices. 
  2. The metrics are derived with an hourly billing model. 
Even though this is benchmark data, I am guessing the same sort of split between law firm gains and client gains would apply to other fee arrangements and other cost reduction efforts. The difference between the law firm gain and the client gain is a reflection of the ‘Rule of Three’ aspect of law firm economics.
Lastly we have the reduction of firm overhead costs as a means of lowering cost per hour. By driving down a firm’s overall overhead numbers, the cost per hour worked goes down. In this scenario I don’t see the client benefiting.
  1. Major reductions in overhead only bring modest reductions in cost per hour. 
  2. By reducing the amount of resources available to the lawyers, their productivity goes down. 
I haven’t seen any metrics that describe this yet, however, the likely outcome is an increase in the number of hours required to perform the same tasks. One obviously example is lawyers having to perform work they used to give to secretaries. So reductions in overhead for firms probably don’t benefit clients and may well drive their costs up.
Bottom-line: almost all of the efforts described that will improve law firm profitably, will also lower costs for clients, or at least create the opportunity from them to be lower. Additionally they have the ability to maintain or improve quality via standardization and tighter management of tasks and processes.
The one exception is the reduction of firm overhead costs. This effort has the least potential for positively impacting clients and actually may hurt them. Currently it is the primary effort firms have been making and continue to make.
My advice to clients:
  1. Understand the impact of each of these efforts and change your behavior to drive their adoption within the firms you use. 
  2. Pay attention to which ones your law firms employ.


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1/13/11

Want to Pitch An Idea to Your Law Firm? Learn to Tell a Better Story

We've all been there: you've got a fantastic idea that you know is going to save your law firm a bundle of bucks but it may take some buy-in from your law firm leadership.

I know that a couple of us know that scenario from the marketing side: having to respond to RFPs from clients. We probably all have used some sort of proposal software, written the proverbial "About Us" page and passed it on to a partner to deliver to a potential client.

But just how do you sell your own lawyers on investing in their own firm? Well, according to Steve Tobak, coach to technology CEOs, you've got to learn to tell a better story.

First, know your audience. For me that means figuring out what kind of learner the lawyer is: do they do better with words, visuals or numbers? Are they analytical, big picture, or intuitive?

Next, tell the attorney:
  1. why should he should care
  2. what's in it for him, and 
  3. what's the criteria for determining whether is this a good idea or not.
Now that's the set-up for your story.

Tobak says if you can satisfy all three of these criteria, especially the last one, you are half-way there.

Now, the story itself.

In your situation, you are trying to get the lawyer to buy in to a new business process, new software, a new something. So you have to tell them a story about how this new system has worked in another law firm or department, with tremendous success.

For example, I like to tell the story about how my social media efforts led to new relationships with several new contacts in my industry and have developed into full-blown working relationships.

Tobak then talks about delivery, or what I would call personality. Be friendly, confident, loose. Don't over-work the request with charts, stats and slide presentations (I tend to do this, so do what I say and not what I do!).

Then, at the end, don't forget to close the deal. Now this can be hard because you've got to get them to make a commitment. So you need to decide what you want them to decide. Do you want a new color printer?

Then ask for it.

But do give the lawyer an out, or at least, some leeway. You don't want to make the lawyer feel like a heal for turning you down--you still have to work with the guy and you want to be able to go back to him. And make sure and ask when you can ask again.

So, in the end, telling a story isn't about spinning something out of whole cloth. Instead, it is a strategy that takes careful planning.

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